Some Ksh25 billion ($247.2 million) has been allocated for the ongoing construction of dams in Kenya in the financial year starting July, amid questions over previous use of money for the projects.
The expenditure plan for fiscal year 2019-20 tabled before the National Assembly end of April shows dams will account for more than a third of the Ksh72.3 billion ($715 million) earmarked for projects in the broader sector of agriculture and food security, water and irrigation.
This is despite unresolved accountability queries which has caught the attention of lawmakers and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
The National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in March stopped the building of 24 dams until due diligence is done on their viability and how land owners will be compensated.
The legislators asked the investigative agencies – DCI and the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) – to focus on projects financed under the Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF) model.
“All the programmes stand suspended until the people are compensated. The government needs to be serious and do first things first… that is, acquiring land and compensating the owners,” committee chairman Kareke Mbiuki had said.
Ongoing building of dams in Kenya first came under sharp public scrutiny in February after the DCI launched a probe into circumstances under which Ksh21 billion ($207.68 million) was paid to an insolvent Italian company, CMC di Ravena, for construction of the Kimwarer and Arror dams in Elgeyo Marakwet.
Dams are a priority area for the Jubilee administration which is seeking to reduce Kenya’s over-reliance on erratic rainfall to support farming and electricity generation.
Delays in the onset of the March-April-May rainfall season – traditionally the planting season – largely results in reduced food production, less earnings from farming and a rise in electricity costs as the country share of cheaper hydro power drops, increasing reliance on expensive diesel generators.
“To reduce over reliance on rain-fed agriculture, the Government will increase land under irrigation,” Treasury secretary Henry Rotich has reiterated in the 2019 Budget Policy Statement presented to the National Assembly in February.